Team Aubuchon once again presented three local charities with sizable donations thanks to the 14th annual Helping Hands for the Holidays.
On Friday, Team Aubuchon president Gary Aubuchon presented the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida, the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida and the Lee Building Industry Association Builders Care each with a check for $8,700 - a split of the $26,100 that was raised.
Held on the Monday evening before Thanksgiving at the Team Aubuchon building, Helping Hands for the Holidays aims to help those in need locally.
Team Aubuchon’s Diane VanArsdale, Builder’s Care’s Wendi Carroll, Gary Aubuchon, Ronald MacDonald House Charities, Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Judith Yevick, Team Aubuchon’s Jeff Miloff, Builder’s Care’s Heidi Taulman, and Team Aubuchon’s Cindy Cross were all on hand Friday as Team Aubuchon presented three local charities with sizable checks after the company’s Helping Hands for the Holidays fund-raiser.
"It's a kickoff to the holidays, where the community comes together in the spirit of giving and donating money to three important charities," he said.
Typically, 200 to 300 people attend the fund-raiser each year.
"It is very informal," Aubuchon said, adding that it is open to the public.
Local restaurants donate food and the Team Aubuchon employees bake desserts. This year, a group of fourth-graders sang Christmas carols and there was a tree lighting. Santa dropped by and was available for photos.
"It's just a really, old-fashioned community holiday event," he said.
It was one of the "best years ever" for the fund-raiser.
"When the economy was good six years ago, we raised similar amounts," Aubuchon said, adding that donations decreased during the recession.
"Not only it is good for the charities, I think it is a reflection that our community it coming back," he said of the donations collected this year.
Heidi Taulman, executive director of Lee BIA Builders Care, explained that the annual check presentation shows a commitment to helping those in need.
"We're just blessed to be a recipient of it," she said. "We're honored to be one of the non-profits to receive these funds."
Builders Care has been a recipient for several years now.
"It is one of the largest checks we get from a single fund-raiser every year," Taulman said.
The funds enable the group to provide emergency repair and construction services to elderly, disabled and economically disadvantaged homeowners in Lee County. This can include wheelchair ramps, and plumbing or roof repair.
Lesley Colantonio, senior special events coordinator for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, said they also are a regular recipient.
"It really helps because we're all after the same dollars and having people raise money for our organization - it would basically help grant the wishes of local children," she said.
There are currently 47 wishes awaiting sponsorship in the area.
"It just helps us toward that wish goals," Colantonio said of the donation.
The Make-a-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida covers a four-county area, including Lee, Collier, Glades and Hendry.
"It's really great to continue to have this relationship with them (Team Aubuchon), and we hope we're a recipient for years to come because it really helps us with our wish goals," she said.
Laura Ragain, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida, said her group greatly appreciates the generosity.
"We are really thrilled to be one of the recipients," she said. "Without the generous support from our community, we would not be able to fulfill our mission of keeping families together."
The donation helps fund programs that impact the health and well-being of children like the Ronald McDonald House - a home-away-from-home for families with children in the hospital - and mobile medical and dental unit.
It also supports grants for other non-profits that are focused on a similar mission for children and scholarships for high school seniors in five counties.
Aubuchon reiterated that all the money raised is spent locally.
"We thought it was important to support the youth in our community, especially those that are hurting, as well as the disadvantaged," he said of starting Helping Hands for the Holidays more than a dozen years ago.
"There's the need in our community from those who are in tough situations or less fortunate," Aubuchon said. "We felt as a community business and a community leader that we step up and engage the community and give back."
The Team Aubuchon building is at 4707 S.E. Ninth Place.